Persian Stuffed Chicken and freekeh
Makes 6 servings
1 whole chicken with organs removed and cavity emptied
1 8-ounce package cracked Freekeh (1 cup dry or about 2 cups cooked)
2 ½ cups chicken broth or vegetable broth, plus ½ cup for the stuffing
½ cup dried apricots, cut in half
½ cup pistachios, chopped coarsely (or use slivered almonds)
6-8 prunes, cut in half
1 carrot, diced
1 medium onion, diced (about a cup)
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
A little olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
A few cracks of black pepper
About 4-6 strips of lemon peel (about ¼ inch wide strips of lemon)
About 2-3 teaspoons of sea salt or kosher salt
1 tablespoon ketchup or tomato paste
1. Preheat oven to 350 F
2. Pour 2 ½ cups of chicken broth in a saucepan, add the Freekeh and bring to a boil, cooking for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 25 minutes until tender.
3. While the Freekeh is cooking, rinse the chicken in cold water. In a small boil mix about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and about a teaspoon of salt. Apply mixture to the outside of the chicken, rubbing it into the skin. Rinse hands thoroughly and set chicken in a large bowl in the refrigerator while the Freekeh is cooking.
4. In a saucepan, add the cumin, coriander and cinnamon with a little olive oil. Heat spices over medium heat for about 45 seconds, then add the diced onion and cook until the onions are transparent. Add about ½ cup of chicken broth or water to skillet. Add lemon peel, ketchup and the diced carrot and cook for another 2-3 minutes, then set aside.
5. Once the Freekeh is cooked, mix the carrot and onion mixture with the Freekeh and add in the lemon peel, apricots, prunes and pistachios. Mix thoroughly with a spoon. Add about a teaspoon of salt and some fresh cracked pepper. Bring out the chicken from the refrigerator and place it in a roasting bag with the open end facing the back of the chicken. Place the chicken breast-side up in a shallow roasting pan. With a large spoon, begin to fill the cavity of the chicken with the Freekeh stuffing mixture until it’s full. With a piece of twine or string, tie the 2 drumstick legs together. If there is remaining stuffing, place it in the bottom of the bag with a little water. Poke a small steam hole in the roasting bag. Tie the roasting bag with the tie and place in preheated oven for about an hour. Feel free to baste the chicken with the juices a few times during cooking.
6. The chicken is done when it is no longer pink against the bone. Once cooked, remove it from the oven and all it to cool off on top of the stove for about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the bag and either place whole on a platter to serve or remove the stuffing from the chicken and serve the cut up chicken on top of the stuffing.